“Everything is f*cked: A book about hope” is another recent read that I wrapped up, I bought this book more than a year ago and tried to start it before but I think you need to be ready to process it. My second try was much better and I have to say, I really enjoyed the chain of thoughts in the book.
Mark Manson comes from the blogging background and you can definitely feel it in his writing – the chapter feel more like the blog articles and at times, I struggled to connect them together to one thread of thoughts. But when I did, it all started making sense. It was also the book where I so far highlighted the most quotes, sentences and thoughts when reading it. So let’s move to the key concepts!
The Uncomfortable truth
Basically, according to Mark Manson, the Uncomfortable Truth of life is that we all gonna die and there is nothing that can change it. As he puts it:
“One day, you and everyone you love will die. And beyond a small group of people for an extremely brief period of time, little what you do or say will ever matter. This is the Uncomfortable Truth of life. And everything you think or do is but an elaborate avoidance of it. We are inconsequential cosmic dust, bumping and milling about on a tiny blue speck. We image our own important. We invent our purpose – we are nothing.
Enjoy your fucking coffee.”
Well said, is not it? And this is why we need hope – it helps us to avoid the Uncomfortable Truth of Life. Manson mentions that the opposite of happiness is not anger or sadness but hopelessness. When everything is empty and numb and in black colours. To quote the author, “hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness, and depression”.
So what is hope?
Hope is created by narrative – a story that we tell ourselves about our lives, about what we can work on tomorrow and improve. It comes from the endless overlapping narratives that we produce for ourselves. Manson mentions that the three key components of the hope that we create for ourselves are control (that we feel like we are in control of our life), values (that we find something important to work for) and community (that we are a part of a larger group who has the same values and works towards the same things),
As humans, we have two brain – the Feeling Brain and the Thinking Brain. And it would be logical to think that our Thinking Brain is the one who is in the driving seat and maintains control. But that’s now the case. It is our Feeling Brain most often that does whatever it wants, buys this and that and decides that today we will watch Netflix and our Thinking Brain is the one who gets the task to justify the Feeling Brain’s whims.
“The Feeling Brain drives our Consciousness Car because, ultimately, we are moved to action only by emotion. That’s because action is emotion. Emotion is the biological hydraulic system that pushes our body into movement. […] While the Thinking Brain exists solely within the synaptic arrangements inside your skull, the Feeling Brain is the wisdom and stupidity of the entire body”.
Hence, the problem of the self-control is often the problem of emotion and dealing with that Feeling Brain. So how do you deal with it? You acknowledge your Feeling Brain, its desires and you bribe it into rationality. You tell it how good it will feel once it goes for that run.
SElf-worth is an illusion. it’s a psychological construct that our feeling brain spins in order to predict what will help it and what will hurt it. Ultimately, we must feel something about ourselves in order to feel something about the world, and without those feelings, it’s impossible for us to find hope.
Our values are our narrative about ourselves throughout our lives and the longer we had them, the less aware we are of them. How do we change our values or become aware of them? By having the experiences that are contrary to our values.
“The stories of our past define our identity [and our values]. The stories of our future define our hopes. And our ability to step into those narratives and live them, to make them reality is what gives our life meaning.”
So where do we find hope?
Here comes an interesting part, I promise. It all is going to make sense in a bit – I warned you at the beginning that the book feels like a collection of blog posts a bit.
Manson highlights three difference sources which he all calls “religion” (not in the narrow sense). He mentioned three types of religion:
- spiritual religions: draw hope from supernatural beliefs, or belief in things that exist outside of the physical or material realm. Here come the religions like Christianity or animism;
- ideological religions: draw hope from natural world – communism, capitalism, liberalism etc.;
- interpersonal religions: draw hope from other people in our lives – family, romantic relationship, celebrities.
Mason goes in more detail about these religions and how they play around our notion of hope to supply it for us.
Everything would be just great with hope except that fundamentally it requires something to be broken to work.
“Hope requires that we renounce a part of ourselves and/or a part of the world. It requires us to be anti-something.” So whatever we reject, that Uncomfortable Truth, it is what the hope it built on.
So what is the alternative to hope? Unconditionally accepting what is.
pAIN IS THE UNIVERSAL CONSTANT
We often think that one day we will attain that level of happiness that will be there all the time and are waiting for it to finally swing in. We are looking at happiness as the constant to go to but the universal constant is pain. Hope makes us reject that constant:
“This is why hope is ultimately self-defeating and self-perpetuating: no matter what we achieve, no matter what peace and prosperity we find, our mind will quickly adjust its expectations to maintain a steady sense of adversity, thus focusing on formulation of a new hope, a new religion, a new conflict to keep us going. […] The pursuit of happiness is a toxic value that has long defined our culture. It is self-defeating and misleading. Living well does not mean avoiding suffering; it means suffering for the right reason”.
Our tolerance for pain, as a culture, is diminishing rapidly. And not only in this diminishment failing to bring us more happiness but it’s generating greater amounts of emotional fragility, which is why everything appears to be so fucked.
So what is the solutioN?
In a nutshell, basically get your sh*t together, stop whining and go through that pain – create it through self-limitation, through challenging yourself and it will build your stamina and your endurance from which comes the real freedom. In more details, you can read the book. And it will frustrate you, but also will open your eyes.
I dare hope that the fake freedom of variety will be rejected by people in favour of the deeper, more meaningful freedom of commitment; […] that people will demand something better of themselves first before demanding something better from the world.MARK MANSON
Much philosophy tonight, eh? I told you you need to be ready for this book.